Friday, 26 November 2010

Revision and editing

I came across the manuscript of the first page of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, and it's awesome. This is not just because of the changes he made, all of which add to the powerful effect of the novel's opening - any competent writer knows from his own experience how different the final draft is from the first. You think of a better way of getting the information across, or a neater way of putting it; you add dialogue, or as Orwell did in his first page, take it out. (For the two versions, go here.)

No, it made me realize just how fortunate writers are today to have the magic of Word at their fingertips. I'd hate anyone to watch me writing on a bad day, or a tricky part of the book. I type in a rough version that's all wrong; add bits, change it, move it around, generally tweak it till it's better. Later I have further goes at it. At some time I read it aloud, and run it through Autocrit to pick up word echoes. If I'm considering larger changes, I copy the passage into a new Word document and let myself loose without inhibitions, knowing it's only a copy. I almost invariably keep this new version and splice it back into the text. Whatever I do, Word keeps the typescript neat and legible.

All George Orwell had to compose his masterpiece was a manual typewriter and a fountain pen. How on earth did he manage?

Friday, 19 November 2010

The cost of selling to bookshops

I made a couple of visits to local Waterstones, hoping to interest them in selling Remix. The manager at the London Wall branch ordered six copies. Telling my daughter about this modest triumph, I said, "Of course, they could all come back again a bit the worse for wear in a couple of months." She asked what I meant, and I explained the system for selling books to bookshops.

The publisher sets a cover price, in my case £9.99, and a trade discount; I went for the full discount, 55%. So the bookshop pays £4.50 per copy. The print cost to me is £3.48, so I make £1.02 per sale. The bookshop decides what to charge for my book, and I certainly hope it's less than the full £9.99 (must go and check) because it's crazy for them to make five times what I do, and anyway, no one will buy it at that price.

But bookshops also require returnability. If my books don't sell, because the price is too high, or nobody notices them tucked away spine out on a low shelf, Waterstones will return them to me and get their money back. I still have to pay the printer, so I will be £20.88 worse off, unless I can re-sell these books second-hand.

"But that's retarded," said my daughter.

She's right.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

My first author interview

I fear I'm boasting again.

Simon Royle, author of soon-to-be-published futuristic thriller Tag, interviewed me for his blog, and I realized I've never been interviewed before in my capacity as a writer. Simon read Remix, too, and said he enjoyed it and it made him laugh out loud.

To see my moment of fame, go here.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

News round-up

This is going to be a bitty blog post about this and that.

First, I was tickled pink to read this fabulous review of Remix in The Romance Reviews, written by Michelle R. Her one reservation was that she would have liked more 'deets between the sheets'. I have to admit I favour letting the reader do most of the work in this area. I reckon if I've made the characters live on the page, readers will know how they make love. But I might attempt a little more in the current book. My daughter will tell me if it doesn't work, kindly but firmly the way she does.

Remix has now been in the UK Kindle top 100 for twenty-seven days; highest position 14. It has seventeen reviews, fifteen 5-star, two 4-star. I've sold over a thousand ecopies on Amazon. I'm rather pleased.

I'm pressing ahead with the WIP, An Unofficial Girl. It's currently at 30,500 words, and the plot is thickening nicely. Beth has found a derelict flat to move into. The real flats I explored in March 0n which hers is based have been sold, properly fenced off, and now have builders busy completing them.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Publishers price fixing for ebooks

Yesterday a group of big publishers started to put into practice what they call 'Agency pricing' of ebooks. This means that retailers are no longer allowed to discount the price they decide to charge. Amazon has reacted by adding the tag This price was set by the publisher below agency prices - though it's also easy to identify these books by their higher price usually ending in 99p.

When this happened in America, sales of those books fell. The same will happen here. Publishers are okay with this, as they think that if the dead tree book is cheaper, readers will buy that, which suits them just fine. They are comfortable with the status quo. They'd really, in their heart of hearts, prefer ebooks to go away.

However, what they are leaving out of the equation is piracy - the illegal downloading of ebooks free from the internet. Right now, you have to search to find the book you want, but as more Kindles sell in this country, it will become as easy as downloading a film or music is today. (Not sure how to do it? Ask any teenager.) Kindle owners don't want to buy the paperback, they want the Kindle version. And they get annoyed if they feel they are being ripped off, particularly when they have paid £149 for the Kindle in the first place.

Caroline P said on the Kindle forum: I can't believe I'm saying this... because I have never ever downloaded files illegally. Not even once. And now I'm considering it. Because if publishers want to rip ME off, maybe it's not so wrong to rip them off?

I have to say I'm watching the publishing industry shoot itself in the foot with some enjoyment. Their loss is my gain, and the gain of any independent with a realistically-priced ebook to sell.

*See also the Bookseller's article.